Wow! I’ve seen some live performances and heard some music in my life, but last Saturday in Florence was very special.
The Opera di Firenze mounted a true spectaclo. One of the finest orchestras in Italy, the sonorous Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, is directed by Ivan Ciampa (my Italian teacher says the Florentine orchestra is second only to that of La Scala in Milano. My teacher has never led me astray) provided the rich, beautiful music, while the company performed the libretto.
La Bohème, the opera in four acts composed by Giacomo Puccini.
The world premier of this beloved opera was in 1896 in Turin, conducted by none other than Arturo Toscanini.
(btw, in 1946, 50 years after the opera’s premiere, Toscanini conducted a performance of it on radio with the NBC Symphony Orchestra; this performance was eventually released on records and on compact disc and is the only recording of a Puccini opera by its original conductor.)
La bohème went on to become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.
The opera this fall in Florence was directed by Bruno Ravella and the stage sets were designed by Tiziano Santi. Santi’s scenes tend to suggest rather than literally depict the French environments with a system of small, open and slightly distorted stage boxes.
The story unfolds in a traditional way, and for me, the most captivating moments were in the large choral scenes suggesting Paris’s Latin Quarter in the 1840s. The opera choir is sensational and delights the audience through their singing and choreography. A favorite scene is when Musetta sings of her romances on a swing like a cabaret performer. One stark but moving scene is between the two lovers in their duet “O soave fanciulla.” They stand on the proscenium in front of a dark mesh-looking screen, on which are projected snowflakes. The young people seem distanced from the rest of the world, caught up in their isolated sphere.
Also surprising and delightful is the projection of light to resemble a carpet of flowers which accompanies “Sì, mi chiamano Mimì.”
The cast is composed of many young performers.
Benjamim Chou reprises the role of Marcello; according to the same critic above, who wrote that Chou’s Italian accent is not perfect. Angela Nisi plays Musetta. Goran Jurić takes the part of Colline and Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore provides Schaunard. William Hernandez plays Benoit and Alessandro Calamai is Alcindoro. Carlo Messeri reprises Parpignol.
Matteo Lippi performs Rodolfo and opposite him shines the key role of Mimi, reprised by Maria Mudryak. Of her superb performance, an Italian critic wrote (I’ve translated it):
The young soprano draws a flurry of flattery and fragile, in line
with tradition, through a voice with a burning stamp, which is
intensified especially in the centers
and in the acute register. Such voice material allows the interpreter
to face the part with the right glance and an enviable security.
Shee only misses a variety of accents and phrasing to make the character really
I guess the talented soprano should practice her Italian; kinda like me! The only thing, alas, that she and I have in common.
At 23, soprano Maria Mudryak’s singing career has already brought her to the world’s great stages, to sing some of the most enviable roles in the operatic repertoire. Her training started early, with a move to Italy at the age of 10; she soon joined the children’s chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, and was later accepted into the Conservatory Giuseppe Verdi in Milan at just 14. She made her professional debut as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro in Genova, and has since filled her seasons with performances of Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Musetta (La bohème), Marie (La fille du régiment) and Violetta (La traviata).
Here you can get a sense of Mudryak (n.b. the videos are not from Florence’s La bohème).
Al termine della recita il pubblico elargisce grandi ed entusiastici applausi a tutti gli interpreti e al direttore.
Teatro del Maggio – Passione Puccini
Opera in quattro quadri di Giuseppe Giacosa e Luigi Illica
Musica di Giacomo Puccini
Mimì Maria Mudryak
Musetta Angela Nisi
Rodolfo Matteo Lippi
Marcello Benjamin Cho
Schaunard Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore
Colline Goran Jurić
Benoit William Hernandez
Alcindoro Alessandro Calamai
Parpignol Carlo Messeri
Sergente dei doganieri Vito Luciano Roberti
Un doganiere Nicolò Ayroldi
Orchestra, Coro e Coro delle voci bianche del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Direttore Francesco Ivan Ciampa
Maestro del coro e del coro delle voci bianche Lorenzo Fratini
Regia Bruno Ravella
Scene Tiziano Santi
Costumi Angela Giulia Toso
Luci D. M. Wood
Nuovo allestimento del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
And, just for fun: